Archive for August, 2011


Counting More Atheists

11 August 2011

After my last post about the Census, I received a number of very interesting comments here, on Facebook and by email.

The form had 9 choices, plus Other and No Religion.  Seven of the nine listed religions weren’t strictly religions but Christian denominations (Catholic, Lutheran et al), the other 2 being Islam (but not split into Sunni and Shia) and Buddhism (similarly left as one homogenous religion).  The glaring omissions were Judaism . . . and Christianity.  Some of my friends didn’t wish to define themselves by Christian sect and therefore put Christianity under Other.

Apparently there have been campaigns to try to make the Government change the question to “Does the person have a religion? Yes or No?” “If yes, please select below”.  The excuse used is that it would cost more to process the responses.  However, the Government states that the information is collected on behalf of the religious institutions (which I don’t really believe).  But if that’s truly the case, the churches can pay for it themselves.  Or better still, leave it off the form completely and allow the religious groups to conduct their own surveys.

The way the question is phrased appears to skew the results.  In an independent survey, carried out by a reputable social sciences research company, 51% of Australians were found to have a religious belief, although only 29% attended religious services.  In the last Census in 2006, 74% appeared to have a belief.  I tend to believe the first figure os 60%+ of weddings in Australia are civil and 70%+ of funerals are secular.

And what on earth is the Government thinking of asking about the religion of the children in the household?  “My husband are I are Catholics, my 6 year old daughter is a Muslim and my 4 year old son is Hindu” is unlikely to be a common response.  Small children don’t have a religious belief.  As Dawkins said, you don’t talk about a socialist or Marxist child – they are the children of socialists or Marxists.  The same applies equally to religious beliefs as to political ones.   

I know I bang on about this but I’m sick to the back teeth of the religious groups in this country having a say in our laws and the way we run our lives which is totally disproportionate to their numbers.  I really don’t give a damn whether you believe in God, Jehovah or the Tooth Fairy.  I don’t (well, maybe I’m an agnostic about the Tooth Fairy).  And neither does, it would seem, about 50% of the population.  Nobody intends to force you to have an abortion or marry someone of the same sex.  Or attend ethics classes instead of scripture.

The Prime Minister of this country is a professed atheist and living with a man “without the benefit of marriage” (I sound just like my grandmother).  I wish she had the gumption to cry that enough is enough, stop pouring public funds into the coffers of religious groups and tell the leaders of these organisations that their views on social and legal matters carry the same amount of weight, no more and no less, than those of the atheist plumber down the road or the agnostic doctor across the street.  To act otherwise suggests that despite her lack of religious belief, she still feels that religious leaders hold the moral and ethical high ground.

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Counting Atheists – Better Than Counting Sheep.

9 August 2011

Tonight is Census Night in Australia, when all 21/22 or whatever million of us will be counted.  I rather enjoy reading the results of a Census with its snippets of interesting information – after the last one for instance, we were told that one in four Australian residents was born overseas.  They want to know how much we earn, how we get to work (though as transport planning is dire in this city, I presume they ignore that bit) and the usual contentious question “What is your religion?” 

Note – NOT “Have you got a religion” but the rather presumptious “What is your religion”.  Of course, you can mark “No religion”.

AND I BEG YOU . . . . if you do not have a religion, please mark that box.  Don’t put the religion of your parents, your husband, the place you went to school.  Put “No religion”.  That is the only way to get rid of the ridiculous power that Australian State and Federal Governments allow religious institutions to have over the lives of all Australians, irrespective of their personal religious, or rather non-religious, views.

A few weeks ago I was waiting in a queue when I was asked by a woman waiting with me what I had done to warrant using a walking stick.  I explained about my accident and she said that God would help me.  I told her I was an atheist.  She was very apologetic.  “I’m so sorry – I thought you were English”.  That rather stumped me!  I confirmed that I was and she said she thought ALL English people were devoted Christians.  I didn’t discover where she’d got that idea but I explained that actually England has probably one of the largest populations of professed atheists in the Western world. 

I would think that Australia is fairly similar in that respect but unless we tell the Government this fact, they’ll continue to pour public funds into religious coffers (like the $165 million funding of Catholic World Youth Day) and refuse to introduce laws that they believe will offend the religious “majority”, like same-sex marriage.  In the UK, there was a bit of a kerfuffle about same-sex marriage, it was introduced nevertheless and is now practically a non-issue.   

Please tonight stand up and be counted. 


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Richard Rutt – The Knitting Bishop

6 August 2011

This morning I visited a Knitters’ Guild group in Sydney and the subject of Richard Rutt came up.  Now you may have never heard of him, particularly if you’re not a knitter, but he was really the world authority on the history of knitting.  Two hours after this conversation, I discovered that he died yesterday.

I first came across him about 25 years ago when one of the UK Sunday colour supplements ran a story about him.  He was a formidable knitter AND an Anglican Bishop (the Bishop of Leicester), who knitted all his “Bishop’s clothes” as well as altar cloths – and they were all stunning.

I believe he left the Anglican church as a protest against the ordination of women (well, I didn’t say he was perfect – just a great knitter and historian) and, despite being married, became a Catholic priest (the Catholic church in the UK did some sort of deal with priests leaving the C of E).

A collection of his books, magazines, patterns etc is held at the University of Southampton Library.  

He led an extraordinary life – he was for 20 years a missionary in Korea and wrote a number of books on the culture and language – but for me he’ll always be remembered as someone who contributed immensely to our knowledge of knitting, its history and the way it’s been adapted and adopted over the centuries.



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